Azerbaijan should be suspended from the Council of Europe to sanction its aggression in Nagorno-Karabakh, at least for being consistent with Russia's exclusion in March 2022 following its aggression in Ukraine. However, dependence on Azeri gas and the power of caviar diplomacy prevent any European retaliation.
After its blitzkrieg, Azerbaijan got control of what was still out of its hands of Nagorno-Karabakh. On September 20, 2023, after a day of hopeless fighting, 200 dead and 400 wounded, the Artsakh forces surrendered unconditionally.
The aggression came as no surprise: already in November 2020, after two months of conflict, Azerbaijan had seized 75% of this autonomous territory inhabited mainly by Armenians, forcing all of them without exception into exile and systematically destroying every sign of their millennia-old presence.
Then, in December 2022, Azerbaijan imposed a siege on the remaining portion, blocking the Lachin corridor. With no access to the only road connecting the region to Armenia and therefore to the outside world, without military support from Armenia itself isolated on the international scene and lacking everything, the 120,000 worn-out Armenians were left to their tragic fate.
Nagorno-Karabakh today, Armenia tomorrow
For Ilham Aliyev, the Azeri president, the success is huge. Son of a former KGB officer and Communist leader at the head of the country for over thirty years (1969-2003), Ilham Aliyev inherited the governance from his father and the ambition of attaching Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan.
Known for his war crimes, he is not willing to stop at ethnic cleansing of the Armenians. Indeed, he has never concealed his intention to annex southern Armenia, to create a continuum from Turkey to the Caspian Sea, in order to accomplish an ancient Panturc project.
Lack of credibility for a passive West
The passive West is guilty of failing to assist a people in mortal danger. Its credibility depends on its reaction, especially regarding the double standards for Russia. Let's not forget that in March 2022, the Council of Europe excluded Russia less than three weeks after the launch of its offensive in Ukraine, claiming that the choice of force over dialogue and diplomacy showed "contempt for the very essence of the Council of Europe".
Azerbaijan's aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh dates back to September 27, 2020, and absolutely nothing has happened since. Admittedly, the European Union, in its pursuit of sanctions against Russia, has made itself dependent on gas from Azerbaijan, a partner "worthy of trust" according to its Commissioner Ursula Von der Leyen.
Azeri corruption at the heart of the Council of Europe
But this pales in comparison with the support Azerbaijan buys via its caviar diplomacy, showering various European politicians with gifts: caviar of course, but also expensive silk carpets, gold and silver objects, invitations to the Formula 1 Grand Prix, etc. In order to silence criticism of its political repression, Baku thus spent 2.5 billion euros between 2012 and 2014, according to an investigation published in September 2017, entitled "Laundromat", which the Council of Europe subsequently confirmed.
Corruption by Azerbaijan is exercised directly within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), in order to systematically block resolutions and reports condemning its human rights violations. For example, former CSU MP Eduard Lintner is said to have received over 4 million euros illegally between 2008 and 2016, while the European People's Party's president at PACE from 2010 to 2013 has admitted receiving 2.39 million euros.
Azeri dictatorship has no place in the Council of Europe
Ilham Aliyev was named in the Panama Papers financial scandal in 2016 and in the Pandora Papers scandal in 2021. His dictatorial, nationalist regime muzzles political opposition and the media and flouts human rights in a general climate of corruption and nepotism.
Like Russia, Azerbaijan has no place in the Council of Europe and should be excluded, or at the very least suspended. Indeed, according to Article 8 of its Statute, any member which seriously infringes the provisions of Article 3, namely "the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms", may be suspended and then excluded in the absence of improvement.
Several states have already been suspended: Greece between 1969 and 1974, following the establishment of the colonels' military dictatorship in 1967; Turkey between 1980 and 1984, following the military coup of 1980; and Russia between 2000 and 2001 because of its policy in Chechnya, before being excluded in March 2022.
The living pain of the Armenian genocide of 1915 and the pogroms of 1980-1990 alert us to the imminent peril of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. Europe, and in particular the Council of Europe, must go beyond declarations of condemnation if it is to remain credible.